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Dave Sinclair wrote:

Hi guys,

My question has to do with the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

I am a young physician in residency and have been charged with the care of a number of patients in intensive care units who are comatose.

Typically, among my Catholic patients who have family members, I ask their family if they would like to have a priest perform Extreme Unction, in cases where I have a dire concern for the patient's health, or, in most cases, I ask if they would like their priest, or a priest that visits the hospital, to administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to their family member.

If I know a patient is a Roman Catholic but they are unconscious and have no one to speak for them.

  • Can I request that a priest perform the sacrament?


  { If I know a Catholic is unconscious and has no stand-in, can I ask that a priest do an Anointing? }

John replied:

Hi Dave,

I think all that's necessary for the Extreme Unction to be valid and efficacious is that the person at least have attrition of, if not contrition, for their sin, hence administering Last Rites to the unconscious, who have not requested them, is valid, even if not always licit.

Since we are dealing with the salvation dying of souls, I wouldn't be too concerned about how licit it would be for you or any doctor to call a priest. At this point, give them the sacrament and let Jesus sort it out.


Fr. Nick replied:

Hi Dave,

It is entirely appropriate for a physician or any person responsible for the care of Catholic patients to request the presence of a priest in an emergency, particularly if the person is unable to make this request. Priests have an obligation to care for the souls of Catholics and to do whatever is necessary for their salvation.

The role of medical personnel is to care for their patient and this care involves mind, body and soul.

Interestingly enough, this is a right ensured to all Hospice patients in the United States, as Medicare mandates that a Chaplain be a part of the medical care team.

Thank-you for being sensitive to the needs of your patients.

Fr. Nick

Bob replied:


If there are no family members taking action, then by all means, make the request.

It is a spiritual work of mercy.


Bob Kirby

Mary Ann replied:

Hi Dave,

Yes, you can and may.

Hospitals used to ask the patients their religion just for that eventuality. Also, your patients do not need to be a subject of dire concern. Serious illness is sufficient to receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

Mary Ann

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